What are the differences?

  Ready-made plans or previously-drafted plans are plans that a design house keeps on stock as a collection of past projects.  The plans contained in this catalogue represent “ready-made plans”.  They are generally available plans that one can buy quickly and inexpensively.  They are (for the most part) not alterable by the designer unless you wish to get into a customize house plan which means more money and more time before you can get underway.

  Most minor changes are possible to ready-made plans by either you the homeowner or by your builder.  It is only when major structural changes occur that you need a new master set of drawings worked on. 

  Ready-made plans are owned by the designer—not by you, the purchaser.  You may not reproduce the blueprints in any way (ie., photocopying).  If you wish to purchase additional sets, inquire about at the place of purchase—there may be strict requirements that allow you to get extra sets at a reduced rate.  Buying a “package” set of blueprints allows you the homeowner or you the builder to build one (1) complete unit from them.  You may not reprint the sets for use in building more of the same building on other lots.  Generally this is how the designer makes money and yes—how he or she stays in business for the next time you wish to build.

  Most reputable companies and building authorities no longer accept “copied” plans—due to the high risk that unapproved alterations may have been made to the design.  As a future homeowner don't accept copied plans from your builder—for the same reason.  If the builder has altered the design may mean that your project will come to a abrupt stop when the building inspector finds something that isn’t allowed.  Then you either 1. tear down the violation, costing you $$$ or 2. spending major $$$ to the designer to get you out of this mess and of course, an overtime that might be necessary to get you on your way as fast as possible.

  If the designer finds out that a house is being built from “copied” plans—he or she has the legal right to have a court-injunction halting all work on the structure until proper compensation has been made.  Usually more $$$ then buying genuine blueprints—due to the fact that you have to pay the designer for property-rights infringement.


Custom House Plans are construction-working drawings of a design that the homeowner commissions the designer to work on.  A designer has the right to “not” to accept a commission on a project—which means he or she doesn't have to work on every job that comes through their door..  A reputable designer has business name and professional ethics that are not negotiable—which is a “good thing”.  It’s those professional ethics (and a company name which is know in the trades as quality) that helps you get your project approved and constructed with minimal delays. 

  Custom house plans are considerably more expensive then “ready-made plans”.  The better designers literally charge more because those than do hire him or her are willing to pay for that quality and experience.  Also scheduling working on your design will take some time, especially if the market is on a high.  The designer more than likely has many projects on the go—and has to schedule your project in relation to already promised work.  A designer will not build unnecessary delays in doing your drawings.

  Ask about the procedure about getting a house design done—most designer have a set method in which they do plans.  If you wish to alter or add extra work (not described in the procedure) that is the time to speak of it.  Those changes will affect the overall cost of the work and may add considerable delays in the schedule completion date of the plans.  Most designers have a first in—first out policy.  Which means every time you stop the work (for you to approve it) —then you immediately go to the end of the line again as the designer moves onto other projects in the queue.  If you alter that procedure after the fact—the designer has the right to refuse to proceed on the drawing completely and generally the only refund back is what portion of the deposits that hasn’t been used up by the work up until that date.

  Are custom house plan fees negotiable?  Generally no, with the sole exception being a client that the designer does a lot of previous work for.


  What are the designer’s responsibilities to their client?  A good designer, in fact, tries to look out for his or her client at all times—protecting them from dangers that the client may not even be aware of.    A good designer (who has probably worked on thousands of designs) know the ins and outs  of the building code and local ordinances, what Manufacturer specifications, situations to avoid, even right down to tricks to get the most use out of your plans to minimize future costs.

  There may be certain layouts that are not permitted by the building codes (like having a wash room right off of a kitchen—for hygiene reasons) - or how to use the construction materials to get the maximum performance and dollar value from them.

  Designers know how best to incorporate the concepts, desires and needs of their clients in the design of their house. 


Things to look for when picking a designer:

  For the most part, the manner that the designer uses whether they use CADD equipment or still do manual design work is a mute point.  Dollar for dollar they really run about the same.  What you may be paying for in an extra day of manual work is the same as the designer charges for the use of expensive computer equipment—especially items like plotters (which runs in the tens of thousands of dollars). 

  What you are really deciding on is what the designer final product is like. 

  For the most part, professional designers use the big sheets to prepare and create a master set of working drawings—sheets that are roughly 20” wide by up to 48” long.  This size is required in order to show scale accurately.  There are professional standards which demand a certain minimum scale for things like house plan drawings, building elevations (the outside of the house), cross-sections and details.  Professionals insist on showing things like location of plumbing fixtures, detailed electrical drawings and specifications, and detailed structural specs as well.

 Amateurs tend to cut corners by offering the drawing on either legal or even letter-size sheets.  That can represent real challenges for the builder and real challenges for your pocket-book.  The drawings are not to any scale making construction difficult or near impossible.  Often the plans do not show details  like electrical plan and detailed structural specifications and drawings.  Professional designer see the amateur stuff all the time—often the pros are called in when the amateur design doesn't meet required codes, building methods, or lack the detail needed to construct the house itself.

  Basically it’s a wise idea to go to the designer’s office and ask to see examples of finished construction working drawings to get an idea of the quality of work done there.  Simply put, more is better.

  Most professionals will not quote exact fees to do drawings over the phone or by fax.  They must meet with you in person, see what sketches and some idea of what you have in mind.  The designer will want to talk to you and get a general sense

of where you are headed and what you needs are before working up a design fee for the work.


It’s amazing how honest soon-to-be homeowners are taken advantage of when shopping around for house plans (especially customized designs).


The rule of bottom-barrel pricing

always means bottom-barrel plans. 


Most of these are done by cad-technicians under the table.

These technicians are usually employed by the largest firms to do the manual labor of (basically) connecting the lines.  They have no knowledge or training in codes, regulations and restrictions—which means either your builder or the homeowner will have to supply all  the specifications and even more costs incurred while building as structural flaws

are encountered.


Have you been phoning

architectural designers asking

for quotes on your customized design?


How do you know that you are not

comparing apples to oranges?


Has the designer been given any real

information concerning your design?


In order to give an accurate quote, a meeting between you and the designer MUST take place.  He or she needs to have a good look at what your intend to build, ask questions concerning unclear points, and know what kind of time table you will be needing your custom plan done.


You, also, must have a real look at the designer’s work — actual construction working drawings — to see what kind of details, information and specifications are contained in their work.  You should ask around to various places (like building suppliers, planning departments, etc) to see exactly how well known the designer is and have

a reasonable idea on the established opinion

about him or her.  Reputation means everything ! ! !

We’ve Moved …

Phone (902) 466-2710

Cole Harbour, HRM

Nova Scotia

(as of January 16, 2009)